Concert-Insurer Peter Tempkins Talks Live Lawsuits

Pollstar recently reached out to concert-insurance veteran Peter Tempkins of HUB International to get his take on the seeming rash of lawsuits that have been filed against various musicians for their alleged onstage antics.

HUB, one of the largest insurance brokers in the world, offers a variety of services including music tour and festival insurance, entertainment business management, and high-risk live event insurance.

We talked to Tempkins a few days after news broke that a fan had sued Travis Scott, claiming that the rowdy crowd at the rapper’s April 30 concert at Terminal 5 in New York had left him paralyzed. The lawsuit, filed Oct. 27 in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan by 23-year-old Kyle Green, also names Scott’s manager, David Stromberg; the Bowery Presents, which runs Terminal 5; and security company Strike Force Protective Services, according to the New York Times

The Times posted a Twitter video filmed by a concertgoer that shows Scott apparently egging on fans to jump from the venue’s second-floor balcony into the crowd’s arms. He says, “I see you. But what are you going to do? … They gonna catch you. Don’t be scared! Don’t be scared!”

Green claims rather than jumping, the crowd pushed him over the balcony. His alleged injuries include a “fractured vertebrae, a broken left wrist and fractured right ankle. He’s had surgery but was left paralyzed on his left side and must get around in a wheelchair,” according to the New York Post.

This wasn’t the first Travis Scott concert that turned rowdy. He was arrested in May on charges of inciting a riot, disorderly conduct and endangering the welfare of a minor, following an Arkansas show. The New York Times pointed out that the rapper also pled guilty to charges of reckless conduct stemming from his 2015 Lollapalooza appearance.

Green’s lawsuit against Scott is just one of many filed against artists in 2017. Other lawsuits include Every Time I Die guitarist Jordan Buckley being sued by a fan who claims she suffered a concussion and neck fracture after he jumped into the crowd at a concert in Pontiac, Mich., according to WXYZ.

Speaking of the Great Lakes State, Rae Sremmurd was recently sued by a fan for throwing water bottles into the crowd at an October 2016 concert, according to court documents obtained by TMZ.

Cage The Elephant guitarist Brad Shultz was sued, along with the band, its LLC and Live Nation, in February by a fan who claims he was hit in the face by Shultz’s guitar after he threw it into the audience at a May 2016 show, according to the Nashville Scene.

Peter Tempkins, HUB International Insurance Services
– Peter Tempkins, HUB International Insurance Services
Peter Tempkins leads the roundtable discussion on “Insurance – Is Yours Right?” at Pollstar Live! 2015 on Feb. 21, 2015

Pollstar: There’s an old rule from insurance agents: Don’t throw anything from the stage, don’t throw a drum stick, don’t throw yourself, and don’t tell fans to jump on or off stage. It seems like artists haven’t been heeding this advice. Can you give an overview of insurance and safety basics for concerts? Do you advise artists regarding this?

Peter Tempkins: Well, having been involved with several claims where these things have happened we always advise our clients not to do these things. There are some that get caught up in the heat of the moment. You know, “I’m lonely, come down and be with me.” Which, there have been artists who have said that.

There are artists [who] feel like they need to interact with the crowd. And they advise or they tell the crowd to do things. When we know about it we tell them, “Don’t do these things.” We certainly don’t encourage it.

But sometimes people do what they want. And then insurance companies either don’t insure them or they’ll put a high deductible on for things like that, which is pretty much the only thing they can do at that point.

That makes sense.

But unfortunately, things happen. There’s no short answer. I remember years ago I was involved with a claim and I read every lawsuit that came in and … pretty much everybody quoted what the artist said. … It was probably seven or eight lawsuits that said the same exact thing the artist said – and he said, “We’re all adults here. If you want to stand, stand, if you want to sit, sit.” Now to me, that’s kind of clear. [But] people rushed the stage. I don’t see how you get from one to another. But unfortunately, there were lawsuits.

Do you remember how those lawsuits ended up?

There were settlements. But I don’t remember how big.

It seems like there are situations like that where it seems pretty clear where the artist isn’t to blame.

Right. But as I said, there are artists who … advocate mosh pits or walls of death. And there are artists who do that and they bear the responsibility. 

There are artists that go off stage [and] go into the audience. We’ve been involved in some of those. And there are times where we say to them, “If you want to do that, advance it with the house production and you can probably make it work but we strongly advise you not to walk out there with a wired microphone. Walk out there with a wireless.”

And we’ve had them say, “No, we want to take our microphone. What’s the big deal if we take a wired one?”

And I go, “It’s called strangulation.” And they go, “Oh no, that would never happen.”

And I go, “Oh, really? You’re walking around people and moving around. It’s easy to do that.” (laughs)

Some things that could seem really innocent could definitely turn dangerous. Sad things do end up happening. Like the incident at the Travis Scott concert where the fan who sued Travis was allegedly left paralyzed on his left side and is now in a wheelchair. 

I know nothing about the Travis Scott incident. I’m not saying this person is not injured. Please don’t [misunderstand], I’m not saying that. But we don’t know the whole story. 

I can tell you I’ve been involved in claims in the past where somebody gets injured in a mosh pit and … we’ve had pictures of the person in the mosh bit moshing and when they get hurt [will say], “Well, at that point I didn’t want to mosh anymore and someone threw me into the pit.”

So, there’s often more to the story.

Well, I’m not saying there is, I’m saying there could be. I’m certainly not saying this person is not telling the truth or anything else. But, you know, he says, “I got pushed over [the balcony] by the crowd.” … We don’t know in fact if he was pushed or he went on his own.

Do you feel like you’ve been seeing more incidents like this, where people are doing crazy things at concerts? Is there an uptick in these incidents or are they just being reported on more?

I think it’s being reported more. I don’t think it’s really changed. Again, if 10 years ago there were 100 artists that were doing it, could there be 110 now? Yeah, maybe. But I don’t think 10 years ago it was three artists and now it’s 5,000. But I think we’re becoming more of a litigious society.

I think part of it is people were brought up years ago, in my opinion, to be  for their actions and now people are being taught someone else is responsible. And I think that’s a big part of the problem.

Not only do artists have to take responsibility for their actions, but attendees at concerts have to be responsible for their actions as well. Maybe we’re hearing about so many of these incidents and lawsuits because everyone is connected to news at all times, with the internet and social media. Maybe certain artists think they’re making the concert more fun for the audience. They probably think they’re putting on a show.  

If you go back in your archives, because I know it was in Pollstar years ago, the lawsuits about Marilyn Manson when he was tea-bagging security guards. I wasn’t Manson’s [insurance] agent at the time, but I know a lot of people who were involved with him. And the security people ended up getting money. But I also know that [Manson’s team] went to the security people ahead of time to let them know what was going on and if they weren’t comfortable being there, they would swap them out. And they were like, “No, we’re fine. Don’t worry about it.” But they still got money.

When you start working with a new client do you go over insurance basics with them and give them tips as far as behavior at concerts?

Well, we deal primarily with their business folks, whether it’s their business managers or their lawyers or their managers. I’m not going to say every client we look up on the internet but a very, very large majority of our new clients [we do]. The web is great. You go in there, you find out about them. So if you see things, that’s when you raise [the rates]. Unfortunately, you can’t sit there and say, “What about this? What about this? What about this?” because you’ll be doing that forever on the same client.  

That makes sense because it’s going to be different to insure someone who’s never had any incidents versus someone like a Travis Scott or Marilyn Manson or whoever.

I’m not saying every artist is perfect. But I think their intentions are good. As I said, I think sometimes they just get wound up in the moment.

Anything else you wanted to add?

I think people to a certain extent  and I’m not saying everyone who gets injured knew what they were getting into because clearly I’m not saying that but, you know, I think people … [also] get wound up in the moment.

Not just artists.

Right. There are people who mosh all the time, never get injured. And for whatever reason at one show or another they get way too overzealous and they get injured. But it’s like anybody who plays any sport. There are good tennis players and every now and again they get too aggressive and they whack the ball too hard and they hurt somebody. They didn’t mean to. … But you gotta rein it in.

As I say, these incidents, Travis Scott is not the first, [and] unfortunately he’s not going to be the last. I think artists generally are respectful and they want everybody to have fun but sometimes the envelope gets pushed a little too much.